Are tanning salons worse for you than smoking?

The Tweet: “Research shows indoor tanning exposure is linked to more cases of cancer than smoking.”

According to a meta analysis of data collected from 88 studies conducted in the US, Europe and Australia into the indoor tanning habits of young people, half of college students and one in five teens in general has indoor tanned. The researchers claim that indoor tanning is responsible for 450,000 new cases of skin cancer a year which is higher in the regions studied than new cases of lung cancer as a result of smoking.

It’s important to note here that the number of new cases doesn’t correlate with the number of deaths. Lung cancer still kills more people per year: “Clearly, the mortality associated with lung cancer is far greater than that for skin cancer, and smoking causes many other health risks,” wrote the researchers. “However, it is striking that… the extremely high incidence of skin cancer means that there are more skin cancer cases attributable to indoor tanning than lung cancer cases attributable to smoking.”

Tanning salons have also been attributed to other health concerns that might make you think twice about jumping under the lamps: “If the tanning bed isn’t clean, you can also get a serious skin infection with symptoms like genital warts, skin rashes, skin warts, and flaky, discolored patches on your skin, UV exposure from indoor tanning accelerates skin aging,” Gery Guy, lead author on a number of meta analyses into tanning salon use, said to The Huffington Post. “The gradual loss of the skin’s elasticity results in wrinkles, skin sagging, and dry, coarse skin.”

Many of the studies into indoor tanning focus on demographics that are far more likely to use tanning beds, mostly young people from Western countries. These people will use beds more regularly and are likely to take more risks with their skin and equally are less likely to suffer from lung cancer. That’s why it is important to take information from well constructed meta analyses that incorporate data from a lot of sources and account for differences in demographics.

Image: Malingering/ Flickr

This post was first published on The Untweetable Truth (10/02/2014)

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